I have a confession to make.

I am not very good at the whole sustainability thing.  I usually confuse what is and isn’t supposed to go in the recycling bin.  My husband comes behind me quietly to resort the trash, making things right before taking it out.  He is also in charge of buying the light bulbs, which is a good thing, because I am not exactly sure what LED even means.

I had the good fortune to spend some time with Gary Cuneen of Seven Generations Ahead this week.  Gary shared with me some bad news regarding Oak Park’s greenhouse gas emissions levels, which are not meeting reduction targets.  I understand that this is a bad thing.  I pledge to understand before I see Gary again what greenhouse gas emissions are.  Honestly, I don’t know.  Sometimes I say “carbon footprint” but I don’t really know what that means either.  

There comes a time when you cannot fake it anymore.  Today, these issues are front and center and intertwined with how we live and how we do business.  Or maybe how we should live and do business.

I have left environmental issues to the environmentalists.  I believe the scientists concerned about global warming and climate change.  However, I never bothered to educate myself because, well, we have scientists to worry about that, right?  I am finally realizing that these experts are here to help us change our behavior and practices – not just tell us the biochemistry behind it.

There are so many business practices that need review.  Lighting, drinking straws, bags, recycling, zero-waste events, temperature control, solar energy, food rescue, paper usage, water and so many more.  Many environmentally-friendly initiatives can save money, as well.

I am proud to say that while I was meeting with Gary, Liz Holt on our team was meeting with Mindy Agnew, Oak Park’s new Sustainability Manager.  Look for the Chamber to do a better job helping businesses connect to these local resources even as we look for ways to improve our own operations and events.  

We have work to do.  I have lots to learn.   It’s time to walk the talk.

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Cathy Yen

Cathy Yen is the Executive Director of the Oak Park River Forest Chamber of Commerce.  She has lived in Oak Park for 21 years and done business locally, first as a retailer and then as a small business...

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